By Alexey Sukachev
Tonight, one of the best Russian fighters around Roman “Made in Hell” Karmazin (37-3-1, 23 KOs) will once again step into the ring to make a statement against well-known American veteran Antwun Echols (31-9-4, 27 KOs). At 36 years of age, Roman has no time to waste and so does his future opponent. The fight, which is scheduled for ten rounds, is billed for the NABF middleweight crown and will be featured as a special attraction in the huge boxing card, arranged at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California.
Former IBF 154lb champion Karmazin is coming off a big win last December when he unanimously and comfortably decisioned fellow ex-titlist Bronco McCart to capture the vacant NABF belt. That was Roman’s second win at middleweight limit during the last two years. Karmazin was originally scheduled to face WBC #6 Mexican Miguel Angel Espino and then his compatriot Jose Celaya emerged as Espino’s mid-late substitute. Both bouts, however, have never come into fruition. Enters Antwun Echols, 37, who is a three-time world title challenger himself, but wasn’t as successful as the Russian fighter lately, losing four of his last seven bouts and scoring no victories since 2004.
On the threshold of the upcoming collision, this reporter contacted both Roman and his new promoter Steven Bash to talk more about the future test.
– Roman, I’m pleased to hear you again. How do you feel yourself? Do you have any problems with your health or physical conditions?
– Everything is just fine this time. I know why you are asking me this question. In Bunema fight (Roman lost it via tenth-round TKO last January) I was sick and misshaped due to a severe illness. I wasn’t able to cancel the bout so I was forced to fight through a pain and a gasp. The result was obvious. Now I’m one hundred percent ready for the fight; the preparation was simply wonderful so I’ll do my best not to disappoint Russian fans both in my Homeland and overseas.
– You were forced to change your preparations for the upcoming collision each time the opponent changed. Does this bother you or not?
– Frankly speaking, I’m pretty much tired of all the circumstances, surrounding my battle at Playboy Mansion. Hopefully, everything has been already put behind and nothing will prevent me from delivering my best performance tomorrow. Though it’s a pity fact that there were so much cancellations and replacements but I don’t want to make any complaints or to throw in any excuses. This is just the way a world of boxing lives nowadays.
– Who has been helping you during the preparations for the coming bout? Who will work in your corner at fight time?
– I have been training for myself. Los Angeles is a wonderful place for all kinds of preparations. I’m totally satisfied with the work I have carried out here. It’s necessary to emphasize that the main part of it was arranged at the open air where I was running in woods, exercising in sands and shaping myself into the best conditions possible. Speaking about my cornermen, I hope to use Freddie Roach’s assistance on Saturday night. We have a preliminary agreement but I know Freddie is very busy helping Manny Pacquiao for his May 2 showdown versus Ricky Hatton so I don’t want to bet on it.
Steven Bash, “Roman has worked it out with a Mexican boxer who is one of Alfredo Angulo chief sparring partners. He also used Craig McEwan assistance and sparred with renowned MMA fighter Karl Noons, who is 8-1 with 5 KOs in pro boxing”.
– Roman, you have been sparring at Wild Card Gym for the Echols bout. Have you seen any fellow countrymen there?
– Oh, of course I have! Wild Card Gym is like a beehive where one can find a man from any given country on the Earth. There were several guys, promoted by German Titov, but now they have all flown away. I was looking for Russian junior middleweight prospect Zaurbek Baysangurov but obviously he wasn’t there. It’s a pity because I was planning to use him as a sparring partner as well. It would have been nice to spar with him and to test my current skills and conditions.
– You were slated to take on WBC #6 Mexican middleweight and Contender I alumni Miguel Espino. Why had that bout been cancelled?
– I was to fight Miguel Espino indeed. But it’s a risky match-up to take on somebody you can hardly defeat. The risk is ultra high while the reward is suspicious at least. So Team Espino decided to play possum and then to withdraw from the bout just before contracts had to be signed. They chose not to risk their high ranks and possible chances for a title fight and I can’t blame them for the choice, really.
– Do you know the Mexican well?
– I really do. When I just started an American part of my career I used to spar with him pretty often. I can’t say exactly but we have stood no less than 100 rounds in the same ring. That’s huge experience and knowledge so we know each other inside out. However, I don’t want to boast for nothing. One thing is training while a real fight is quite different. I’m sure I would have been a huge favorite had we clashed against each other today.
Steven Bash: “When the fight with Espino was scratched we have tried hard to find a suitable replacement. Jose ‘Cuato’ Celaya was also a possibility but that bout had to be cancelled as well. Finally, it was Antwun Echols who had stepped in as a late replacement. I guess it’s a good choice for a late-sub given Antwun’s experience, awkwardness and punching power. He will pose a threat for Roman so Karmazin must be in his top shape to defeat this foe”.
– Have you seen any Echols’ fights so far? What do you think of him?
– Antwun is a rugged and experienced guy. He seems to be a puncher too. It also looks like his skills are ok. But definitely he is no special fighter at all. It’s to be said though that I’ve seen only one of his fights. Frankly, I don’t need any more to form an opinion about the future opponent.
– You will be a favorite coming into the clash against Echols. Don’t you think that after five years without a single win American is a shot fighter?
– Yeah, right! One moment you think, “Nah, he is past his prime and I’ll take him out with ease”. Bang! The next moment you are crumbling away right onto the canvas. No, thanks, I’ll not repeat this mistake. I consider this fight as a tough challenge and I have an outmost respect for Mr. Echols. Not that I think I shall not win tomorrow night. But I’m preparing for a tough challenge and I guess it won’t be a walk in the park for me. You’re saying he loses too much, aren’t you? My late coach Igor Michailovich Lebedev used to say, “It’s better to throw one punch to take none in return than to take plenty of them to land plenty plus one. Defend your head, guys, and everything will be just fine”. Maybe, just maybe Antwun Echols is taking too much blows to the head. That is why he loses so often. But I’ll not take him lightly anyway.
– Will this show be televised in Russia?
– No, it will not be broadcasted. And here’s a big problem. Russian fighters don’t get the support they need from Russian TV bosses. Each time we are asking them to showcase our talents we hear, “It’s a financial meltdown. We haven’t enough money for you, guys”. So, each time there’s no money.
– What is about Azteca TV?
– I don’t know. I think they will televise Mexican fighters and certainly this is a right choice for them to make.
– Fighters usually don’t look over their closest opponents. But at age 36 the time is ticking fast for you. What do you plan for the future?
– Don’t know what to say and what to ask. Personally, I’m ready for everyone in middleweight and neighboring weight classes. If the money is right and there’s a title on the line I can start preparations right away. That’s not a bravado some may think of. My life in boxing will soon come to an end and I want to win something huge in twilight of my career. I think I worked hard enough to be granted with another big title shot.
– Rumors are you want to fight Arthur Abraham next. On the other hand, the vast majority of boxing fans is rooting for Pavlik – Abraham bout to be made. Who, you think, will come out as a winner provided that fight is a done deal?
– I don’t like to make any predictions. I saw the only Kelly Pavlik fight. He is a big physical type but once again he is nothing special. He is neither Ali, nor Tyson. Just a big guy with good skills and some weaknesses to be exposed. As of Abraham, I haven’t seen him in the ring at all. Not that I don’t want to test him myself (laughing).
Steven Bash: “I have a Topps “co-signers” trading card with Karmazin and Abraham on the same card sitting on my desk and I have always thought this would be a REAL fight for boxing fans”.
– Thanks and good luck!
– My pleasure!